On April 4, the Graduate Student Senate delivered a formal recommendation to Chancellor Holub and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Campus Life Jean Kim regarding the university’s recent changes over graduate housing. The letter read as follows:
We, the Graduate Student Senate (GSS), the official representative governing body of graduate students propose the following recommendations: 1.) The newest University policy on family and single graduate student housing be immediately suspended until a committee constituted with graduate students and administration review and recommend changes to the policy; 2.) The GSS appoint graduate student representatives to sit on the committee and have full voting privilege; 3.) The committee research how current housing policies affect graduate students both now and in the future; 4.) The committee investigate the current management of North Village and the new policy concerning the management of Lincoln apartments; 5.) All future graduate student housing decisions involve graduate students via GSS appointment.
We understand the current policy, which was approved without any student input, to consist of:
- Lincoln apartments will be managed as undergraduate on-campus housing.
- Graduate student families will no longer be housed in Lincoln following the 2012-2013 academic year.
- Graduate student families currently living in Lincoln Apartments will be allowed to stay for one year and pay a projected 5-9% increase in rent based on their current rent.
- Graduate student families will be prioritized on the waiting list for North Village for 2012/2013, but housing in North Village is not guaranteed.
- Per unit rental prices for one and two bedroom apartments will increase by a projected 110-120%
- Per unit rental prices for studios will increase by a projected 38-45%
- Graduate students will no longer be housed in Cashin.
These changes in graduate student life negatively affect vulnerable populations such as graduate student families and international students. We are disappointed that the University chose to make these vital decisions about graduate student life without the input of graduate students. These types of decisions coupled with lack of input will only foster distrust and resentment and impact the long term standing of the University.
We ask that Residential Life, an arm of Student Affairs and Campus Life, act now on the recommendations above. If there is a failure to act, the Graduate Student Senate will have no choice but to vote no confidence on the work and leadership of Vice Chancellor Jean Kim and Residential Life Director Eddie Hull.
Due to the fact that the deadline for grad students to respond to the housing request is April 15, we request that you respond to our recommendation by no later than April 13.
Graduate Student Senate
University of Massachusetts Amherst
To support the GSS recommendation, please write individual emails, or emails signed by your department/group to Chancellor Holub (firstname.lastname@example.org), Vice Chancellor Jean Kim (email@example.com), and Executive Director of Residential Life Eddie Hull (firstname.lastname@example.org).
On April 11,Vice Chancellor Kim responded to the GSS recommendation. Please see below. We are appalled by the administration’s clear stance of refusing to engage student input. According to the Board of Trustees Statement on University Governance (Wellman Document), “students will have primary responsibility for services and activities which are designed primarily to serve students or those which are financed primarily by students.” In spite of the directive of this document, Vice Chancellor Kim’s response rejected student input for the current changes on family housing even when we have repeatedly urged them to do so.
We plan to continue to pursue this matter. Your comments and suggestions are most welcome!
Vice Chancellor Jean Kim’s response:
Thank you for your April 4th email and suggestions related to graduate housing. Prior to receiving these GSS recommendations, as you know, I met with Dave Vaillancourt, you and the other GSS leadership on April 2nd and discussed these concerns regarding the Lincoln apartment rates for next year. I made a commitment at that time to review next year’s rates and get back to you before April 15.
I am in agreement with GSS that creating a comprehensive plan for graduate student housing is important and necessary. While the newest policy on family and single graduate student housing in Lincoln will not be suspended, we will revisit the policy as part of a broader, more inclusive conversation about graduate student housing at UMass Amherst. Accordingly, in regards to your recommendations 2-5, as was planned, I will be appointing a campus-wide task force to study the housing needs of graduate students and provide recommendations and guidance for the development of a long-range plan. The task force will be convened in fall 2012 with an expectation to complete a report to me with recommendations by March 2013. I trust that I can rely on GSS to provide a variety of assistance with this task force including: recommending graduate students for task force membership, recruiting participants/facilitators for any focus groups or related needs assessment research, and promulgating updates and final recommendations throughout the graduate student community.
Warm Regards, VC Kim